SEMA News—April 2014
By Joe Dysart
Cruisin’ for a Bruisin’
Businesses Still Using Windows XP After April 2014 Courting Peril
Businesses still using Windows XP after April 8, 2014, will be courting peril, according to countless IT experts. All Microsoft support for the operating system ends on that day, leaving XP forever vulnerable to new security breaches.
“The importance of upgrading from Windows XP cannot be overstated,” said Tim Rains, director of Microsoft Trustworthy Computing. “We truly want people to understand the risks of running Windows XP after support ends and to recognize the security benefits of upgrading to a more modern operating system.”
IT security analysts predict that hackers will have a field day poking holes in XP’s security after Microsoft abandons the OS in April, knowing full well that any security vulnerabilities they find will no longer be patched by the software maker. Essentially, every new security vulnerability discovered by hackers after April 8, 2014, can be used as long as PCs run XP.
IT security analysts also predict that a rash of hacker attacks will be unleashed on unsuspecting XP users as soon as the deadline passes. The reason? Many hackers are currently discovering and squirreling away new flaws in XP’s security, knowing that these vulnerabilities will last forever once XP takes the dirt nap.
More than 12 years old, the extremely popular Windows XP is still used on 31% of PCs worldwide, according to Net Applications, with business use much higher. Indeed, a September 2013 study by Dimensional Research found that 47% of businesses worldwide had not completed their migrations from Windows XP to Windows 7 or 8. Moreover, an additional 16% had not even started to migrate.
“The deadline is looming,” said Mahesh Kumar, chief marketing officer for IT consulting firm BDNA. “People are now saying, ‘Oh my God. I have to get it done.’”
The extreme reluctance of businesses to migrate from XP has been a source of much consternation at Microsoft, which for years has been beseeching firms to move to more modern versions of the operating system. The problem, in part, is that XP was—and is—a home run for Microsoft. Over the years, the OS has earned a reputation as being very stable and very reliable. Plus, XP runs many software programs that are simply not compatible with later versions of Windows—a major sticking point for businesses.
Understandably, businesses are in no rush to migrate away from XP, knowing full well that they’ll also be forced to re-purchase newer versions of the same applications that run just fine on their XP computers. The reluctance to upgrade has also been exacerbated by the business community’s memory of Microsoft’s release of Windows Vista, which initially had major compatibility problems with peripheral hardware and ran slower than XP on many PCs.
And while Microsoft’s follow-up OS, Windows 7, was generally cheered, its latest offering, Windows 8, again has the Redmond goliath in the doghouse. That version of Windows has drawn more than a few sneers for its radical new look and feel, which is designed to force feed touchscreen computing to traditional PC users, like it or not.
Even so, amid all the reluctance and all the recent grimacing over Microsoft’s latest moves, businesses still running XP are staring at a hard truth: Either migrate to a newer version of Windows—or another operating system, such as Linux, Apple’s iOs or Android—by April 8, 2014, or make preparations to take a seat in the “Windows XP Next Victim Shooting Gallery.”
“This may feel like a scam by Microsoft to force you to spend money on an upgrade, but it’s actually a natural part of the software lifecycle,” said Jerry Fett, CEO of computer consulting firm Smart IT. “Upon upgrading from XP to Windows 8, you may be pleasantly surprised to see a performance boost after dealing with XP after all these years. This is primarily because XP came out before the latest and most commonly used solutions were even conceived. Think back to what the Internet was like 12 years ago—that’s what XP was designed for. Running new software on a new OS will yield you maximum productivity.”
One suspects that not every business is as bright-eyed as Fett about migrating. But with the inevitable approaching, at least you’ll have some tools to get you through:
Microsoft: Microsoft has a few tools to help businesses migrate from Windows XP, including its Windows Assessment and Deployment Kit and the Microsoft User State Migration Tool.
Hewlett-Packard (HP): This major PC player also offers a comprehensive migration service (www8.hp.com/us/en/ads/xp-migration/landing.html?jumpid=ex_r11260_go_goodbyexp_redirect). “By working with a company such as HP, which has hardware and service solutions in place, businesses can almost immediately start realizing the benefits of Windows 8 and Windows 7,” said Enrique Lores, a senior vice president at HP. The company is also advising businesses to use its HP Connected Backup 8.8 service, which enables a business to back up all of its data in the cloud and enables IT administrators as well as users to access that data using their newer version of Windows.
XPMigrations: Smaller to medium-size businesses may want to check out this co-op community. It’s a nationwide group of independent, certified IT pros who specialize in migrating businesses from XP to Windows 7, 8 and other operating systems. The community is also hosting a series of ongoing, XP migration seminars in major cities across the United States.
Migrate 7 by Tranxition, $29: This is simple migration software preserves a PC’s “persona.” Migrate 7 automatically locates, stores, transfers and reconnects user settings and data files, including desktop configurations, mapped network drives, Internet settings and accounts, service and protocol information, Internet favorites and bookmarks, e-mail services, address books and inboxes, custom dictionaries and many more. Similar software can be found with the Google keyphrase “Windows XP migration software.”
The “Pro” and “Enterprise” Versions of Windows 8: Both of these versions of Windows 8 enable businesses to run “virtual” copies of other operating systems—including Windows XP. (There have been reports that getting this feature to work is difficult or impossible on some PCs.) In practice, that enables a business to run both XP and Windows 8 on the same PC and—most importantly—to run all those XP programs that they would otherwise have to abandon if they simply ran Windows 8 on their machines.
Essentially, running a virtual copy of XP on Windows 8 is a great short-term fix to slowly move a business from XP to Windows 8. But after April 8, 2014, the safest course is to run the virtual copy of XP only when the PC is not connected to the Internet in order to avoid potential Internet viruses and break-ins.
The Windows 7 Pro, Ultimate and Enterprise versions also offer similar virtualizations in Windows XP Mode. But some users have complained that XP Mode on Windows 7 slows down their applications.